my world of work and user experiences

February 28, 2017

So do we unplug the file shares now?

Filed under: Adoption,SharePoint — frederique @ 23:32

I often see SharePoint environments that exist in parallel to good old file shares. The idea usually is to switch from file shares to SharePoint, because they allow the users to collaborate more effectively and efficiently. However, some users do not want to move away from the file shares. But then again, other users get confused if not everything is moved immediately. I do not have a silver bullet to determine the ideal moment to unplug the file shares. But let us take a look at some considerations, which came up in recent projects.

Switch from file shares to SharePoint

People sometimes ask me why they would stop using files shares and start using SharePoint in one of its incarnations. What’s in it for them? SharePoint sites do offer more functionality for collaborating that file shares. Mosst users can benefit from them, if they adopt them.

And why do I talk about SharePoint sites and not about the newer offerings in Office 365? Because these advantages appear in old school team sites on-premises or new modern team sites in SharePoint online, as well as in the sites associated to Office 365 Groups or Teams. It does not matter, many of the relevant options still live in a version of SharePoint.

SharePoint sites work better than file shares when you need to…

  • Share documents with people outside your organization
    In SharePoint sites, you can only allow externals if the administrators have switched the option on. But I have never had a file share that allowed for external access anyway.
  • Work anytime, anywhere.
    Of course some organizations lock down access without VPN, even in Office 365. But when it lives in SharePoint, your chances are a lot better for accessing information from outside your organization’s network or on a mobile device is a lot easier.
  • Collaborate in a controlled manner
    • Work in a document at the same time with multiple authors
    • Powerful versioning
    • Email notifications when a document is changed
  • Keep track of documents that have more properties than the windows basics
    For example, if documents have an expiry date, owner and a status, you can enrich them with metadata and use those to offer smart views, filtered to display overdue documents owned by my and grouped by status.
  • Work with more than just documents, like action lists, news, links, …
    Classic collaboration entails a lot of documents being exchanged. But the tools allow for more and more different ways to share and keep track of things, especially with the interactive Groups and Teams, including the spiffy Planner.
  • Collaborate on informal notes (for which sites contain a OneNote notebook).

Most of these advantages also apply to OneDrive for Business. OneDrive for Business is the replacement of the personal file share (P-drive or I-Drive or whatever it is called).

Unplug file shares when you switch to SharePoint

You can use file shares and SharePoint sites at the same time, in parallel. But this does cause problems, which you want to avoid by unplugging file shares.

If you have both, it is:

  • Confusing for the users: what do we store where? In an organization where IT did not want to rush the unplugging of the file shares, some users complained that the old file shares ought to be switched off right away. If we are on SharePoint and others still on a file share, how can we find each other? And how can we get used to SharePoint if most of the information is still on a file share? Of course other users panicked at the mere idea of losing their file shares, which is why the IT department took it slow…
  • Costly for IT: storage on file shares is expensive, and you don’t want to spend time and money maintaining two systems.

But look before you leap

Organizations are often eager to unplug the file shares quickly, in order to achieve the desired IT cost savings. However, this can also cause problems.

  • Some files don’t work in SharePoint For example, supersized files or “dangerous” file types (like .exe) cannot be uploaded into SharePoint. Filename with symbols like & have to be changed before they can be uploaded. Connections of connected HTML-files, such as handbooks, can no longer be browsed when they are moved into SharePoint.
  • Is SharePoint really working for the users? Don’t unplug the old file share before the new SharePoint sites can really be used. Not only should the environment be available, but it should also be accessible without hiccups and perform properly. I have hear enough people complain that they did not use SharePoint sites because they are so much slower than the old file shares. Then they are only working theoretically, but not in real life.
  • Have the users been empowered to adopt the SharePoint sites? Do they know they exist? Do they see what the benefits are? Do they understand how they can use them to achieve those benefits? Do they feel confident enough to dare use them? Can they get support?
  • If not:
    • Old school users may revert to older tools If you unplug the file share and they do not see SharePoint sites as a good option, users may go back to sending files back and forth as classic e-mail attachments. Then you may get the IT cost savings, but you will end up with a mess of unmanaged information.
    • Savvy users will find their own tools in Shadow IT Some users love spiffy new apps and tools, and they want to get the job done. So they will just go out there, download this, subscribe to that and join anything else if IT does not provide great tools. I have heard enough users explain that SharePoint sites did not work for them, so they used Dropbox or Google docs or WeTransfer or whatever else instead. This may be just fine, but it may also be a risk if they adopt Shadow IT tools that do not meet the security requirements for example. And don’t think you can prevent this by blacklisting the known tools for file sharing in the cloud. There is always one that the IT official will have missed and that some creative user has found…
  • And transition carefully The best way to transition depends on who you are as an organization, what information you have in the file shares, and what governance rules your information has to obey. Maybe you can move the current information from a file share into a new structure in SharePoint as you go along and leave the rest for a year before you just delete it. Or you can migrate a nicely structured file share into SharePoint using a migration tool. But you should think about it, before you get some garbage-in-garbage-out migration or lose crucial information. And maybe you only have regular office files, without any complications, to which SharePoint is ideally suited. But you should make sure, before users have no other option but to put exotic files onto their C-drive (which may crash) or flash drive (which they may lose) or external storage tool (which may be pirate by who knows whom).

So for some types of files, you may need to keep a file share. For some organizations and some users, a file share may continue to play an important role. But for most organizations, most users and most of the information, it is a good idea to move to SharePoint and unplug the file shares. However, don’t unplug them before you have made sure that the users have adopted the new tool and embraced the new way of working.

October 31, 2016

Office 365 groups now have real SharePoint site

Filed under: Office365,SharePoint — Tags: — frederique @ 23:55

An Office 365 Group or a SharePoint Team Site? Now we mostly get an Office 365 AND a SharePoint Team Site: the integration between Groups and SharePoint gives us a full SharePoint Site when we create Group. At a later stage, we will also get a Group when we create a site from SharePoint.

When I talked about Office 365 Groups a year ago, I was not particularly pleased with them. They had potential, but also a lot of drawbacks. But these Groups are really getting somewhere now. Earlier this year I felt that these Groups were making serious progress. Then I enthused about external access. Now the integration with SharePoint sites is starting to make me a happy Groupie…

A SharePoint site for my Groups…

It took a while for the integration between Groups and SharePoint arrived at my Dutch first release tenants, but now all of my Office 365 Groups have a SharePoint site associated to it. Not just newly created Groups, also existing Groups.

When I am in the Conversations section of the Group, I even see an explicit link to the Site.

Link to the SharePoint site from the Conversations section of the Group

Link to the SharePoint site from the Conversations section of the Group

Clicking on that link opens the homepage of the SharePoint site associated to this Group. On the left hand side, we get the Quick Launch menu which we recognize from SharePoint.

The homepage is less recognizable, because it is the homepage of a Modern Team site, which looks quite different from an old-fashioned Team Site. This is actually the first Modern Team Site that I can play with, but that is a different story.

My Group has a full blow Modern Team Site, with a site home page.

My Group now has a full blow Modern Team Site, with a site home page.

I am very happy that I have a SharePoint site with my Group, because now I can:

  • Add lists for anything from the who-brings-what for the team barbecue to inventories of special solutions with their owners and statuses.
  • Use a page where I can bring information together. Not just the home page; I can create new pages if I want

… But I do not see a full SharePoint site

When I dug a little deeper in the site settng of my new “Group Site”, I saw that some options are missing:

  • Users and Permissions, with the site permissions
  • Look & feel: Title, description and logo, plus the Top Link Bar
  • Site actions: Save the site as template, and Delete this site
  • Most of the Web Designer Galleries
  • Site administration: Site closure and deletion, popularity trends
  • Site collection administration: Enterprise Content Management tools like audit log reports, content type policy templates and site policies,. Also popularity and search reports. And the sharepoint designer settings
Site settings in a site associated with  Group versus the settings of a native SharePoint site

The settings of a native SharePoint site versus the settings in a site associated with Group versus

So did these settings drop out of the site? No. According to Mark Kashman in the Q&A of his keynote at the Collab365 Global Conference, nothing has been taken out of the sites. However, some things have been hidden…

The options that are hidden in a site associated with a Group are the options that you are supposed to manage in the Group (in Outlook) instead of in the site, like its membership. You are also not supposed the delete the site but the Group as a whole. And he said that they had hidden the options that would confuse non-SharePoint experts, so that may be why we don’t get the policy stuff.


When I need full blown Enterprise Content Management functionality in a site, with Audit log reports and policies, I still create a native SharePoint site. But for “normal” collaboration, Office 365 are becoming the go-to option…

May 31, 2016

10 lessons learned in a Team Site migration

Filed under: Governance,SharePoint — Tags: — frederique @ 23:10

Recently I was in the lead in a migration project, in which we upgraded collaboration sites from SharePoint 2010 to 2013 and moved them to another location. Let me share with you some lessons I learned in that project. Some from friendly feedback, others from hitting snags head on. Some related to SharePoint, and others that don’t have anything to do with technology but are all about people: communication and process.


1.The content database attach upgrade method is quite handy

We had hundreds of sites to upgrade and migrate in a short time. There was no time and manpower to do it manually or to write a custom code solution to do the migration. We did have a migration tool at our disposal but that was not suited for bulk migrations, and the other tools we looked at we too expensive. So we decided to use the content database attach upgrade method.

We were quite pleased with the result: we did manage to migrate 551 site collections in one weekend, even though some were quite large. The content and settings moved along nicely, including timestamps and the names of the authors, even if they had left the company.

2.Ask a SharePoint developer to script clean-up in Powershell: automate repetitive tasks

Unfortunately, the old collaboration sites were chock-full of weird customizations. They had even customized the permission mechanism, for Pete’s sake… So we did not want to upgrade the sites completely as-is. We could have tried to reconfigure the sites manually, but that would be a lot of work.

So a SharePoint developer wrote Powershell scripts, to clean out the unwanted customizations and transform the sites. We could not get rid of everything, but after the clean-up, the migrated sites are a lot more future-proof…

  • SharePoint developer. We talked to other developers, but we found out that they could not write these scripts sufficiently quickly and accurately. The scripts had to tie into SharePoint functionality, so the developer needed a good grasp of the way SharePoint works.
  • Automate as much as possible before the migration weekend. We had a non-stop process over the weekend for the production migration, where people had to perform tasks in the middle of the night. That can be a recipe for disaster. So the developer automated as much as possible, so that he hardly had to type in any commands and took little risk of making mistakes.

3.Align the settings between the old and the new SharePoint

We found out the hard way that the settings in our new SharePoint 2013 environment differed from the settings in our old SharePoint 2010 environment. These differences pertained to exotic exceptions in our collection of collaboration sites, so we had not included them in our regular test cases. For example:

  • The threshold for the maximum number of items in a list has been increased in the old environment to 13.000, while in the new environment the lists complained after 5.000 items.
  • HTM and MHT files were opened in the browser in the old environment. In the migrated sites, users are prompted to save such files.

So next time, we will make sure to compare the settings and align them beforehand.

The team’s process

4.Test the functionality

We started testing at an early stage, from different perspectives.

  • Content: Is the content intact, including things like the number of items, the timestamps and author names, and versions?
  • Settings: Are the settings intact, including for example views, web part pages, permissions and site settings?
  • SharePoint functionality: did the we somehow break the regular SharePoint functionality or does it all still work properly?

We needed to know what the Site Owners and other users would get after the upgrade. Firstly, because the developer was able to fix some issues before the real migration, in his clean-up and upgrade scripting. And secondly, because this allowed us to warn the Site Owners which elements would not transfer well. Fortunately, this pertained only to functionality that very few sites used. For example, the Term Store is not part of the content databases. We left it behind, because nobody really used Managed Metadata.

5.Test the infrastructure

In addition to the functional test of the environment, we also tested how the migration would run on the infrastructure:

  • Disk space. Given the size of the content databases, how much space do we need on the servers? Do we have that space? We didn’t, so we requested additional space.
  • Time. How much time does the migration take on the servers we have? What if we add a server for parallel processing with our clean-up scripts?
  • Snags. What snags do we hit? For example, we found out that we had to install a feature that was no longer used but still referred to from within SharePoint. And we found out that some servers would pause in the middle of the night, if we didn’t take special precautions.

I am very glad we did several test runs, because in our first runs we got nowhere near the finish line  within the planned timeframe of one weekend. And after these tests and subsequent changes, we did manage to finish the migration of the production environment by Sunday afternoon.

6.Create a cookbook and timetable for the team

Especially during our migration weekend, the pressure was on and we worked round the clock to perform our tasks. Some tasks and some transitions between tasks could not be automated easily. So we made them foolproof in our process:

  • Cookbook: We could blindly follow the clear and explicit steps we had written down in our cookbook beforehand, based on our thorough tests.
  • Timetable: The SharePoint developer/architect who devised the technical migration method created an excel sheet with all tasks, with calculated fields indicating when they had to be started. The calculations for the planned times were based on the durations found in our tests, and the calculations for the actual/expected times were based on our progress during the migration weekend. This way, we all knew when we could expect it to be our turn.
Migration timetable

Migration timetable (thank you Macaw colleague Peter Heibrink!)

7.Keep the lines open

Part of our team was in The Netherlands and the others were in India. So we could not get together in a real-life “war room”. So we worked from our homes during that migration weekend, and we kept in touch via digital means:

  • Conversations in Skype for Business. This was our main channel for informal chats and voice calls, to check progress, ask questions, get answers, put forward suggestions and generally encourage each other.
  • An e-mail thread to keep all stakeholders informed when we moved to the next step. They could read the e-mail on their mobile devices – not everybody had to stay glued to their laptops for the entire weekend.
  • A list of emergency phone numbers, so that we knew how to call and wake up key people if anything got stuck.

The most important thing is actually not the digital communication channel, but the willingness of the team members to share their thoughts, to express any doubts or questions they had, and to answer questions. This way, we could really work as one team.

Communication with Site Owners and Users

8.“Beautiful” emails are ignored as spam. Make it functional and personal

We started with an email to all Site Owners. It looked like a newsletter, styled to fit the corporate look & feel. We regretted that decision, when at a later stage we heard that some Site Owners had completely missed the communication. They literally said: “nobody reads those emails in newsletter format.” Oops.

What worked best, were emails that:

  • Have a functional look. No fancy styling, just mail to a colleague.
  • Have a clearly visible key message, in the subject and in the first lines: what is the point, what do we need from you. For example: “Group Sites migration starts Friday May 20 18:00h: Check in the final documents and inform the users”
  • Make it clearly relevant for them personally as much as possible. For example, in the subject of an individual mail we put: “Can we delete the Group Site XYZ?”, when the owner of a big site hadn’t told us if he wanted us to migrate it. This take a lot of time, but did allow us to take some unwieldly sites out of the migration. And when we mailed the new URLs after the migration, we used a mail merge to send every owner a mail with their own name and specific link, highlighted in a clear but ugly yellow.

9.A self-service migration list helps, but you still need to process email replies

We set up a migration site (already in SharePoint 2013), with information about the migration, a discussion list for questions and remarks, and a self-service migration list:

  • Information about each collaboration site collection: In that migration list we put an item for every collaboration site collection, with key information: the main site owners as far as we knew them, the URL, some metadata carried over from the site request list.
  • Fields that we wanted input on: We asked the owners to check the Main Site Owner fields and change the names if needed. We also asked them to switch the status field, to indicate if the site should be migrated or could be deleted.
  • Dynamic views helped the owners and users find the sites relevant for them: filtered by Main Site Owner = [Me], grouped by department, grouped by status.

Within a few days after our initial mail to all site owners, about half of the items in the list had actually been updated by the site owners themselves. That saved us a lot of time and effort! But then again, about a quarter replied by email so that we had to administer their wishes. It was more important to us that we actually get an answer than that this answer was given via our preferred channel, so we thanked them anyway. And the rest had to be chased to elicit any answer at all. Fortunately, we had decided that if we got no response from the owners, we would simply migrate the site to avoid getting into time-consuming fights..

10.Asking the Site Owners if they want to migrate their sites is worth the effort

We contacted the site owners, because we wanted them to take a small part in the migration: make sure their site was ready for migration and inform their users. So we asked them to confirm they were the main site owners we should contact.

Because we were mailing them anyway, we also asked them to tell us if they wanted to migrate their sites. We fully expected everyone to blindly respond that of course their sites had to be migrated, especially because 6 months earlier we had sent out a regular request to delete inactive sites. But lo and behold, it turned out that the site owners said that a full 26% of all collaboration sites could be deleted! That saved us a lot of time during the migration weekend.

January 31, 2016

How do I create a document in SharePoint?

Filed under: SharePoint — Tags: — frederique @ 23:27

We often see users creating documents in MS Office and then uploading them into SharePoint. But you can also create your document directly in SharePoint. A client recently wanted to know the details, because they feared that their newbie users would otherwise never put their documents in SharePoint.

So how do you create documents in SharePoint, particulary in SharePoint Online?

Use the button ‘New’

To create a new document in SharePoint, you navigate to the site where you want to create your document. And in the Document Library you click the obvious button: New. Then you select the type of document you want to create, Word for example.

'New' button in a Document Library, to create a new document.

‘New’ button in a Document Library, to create a new document.

Create a basic document in Office Online

By default, this opens Word Online (or another Office Online, if you have selected another document type). Here, you can just start typing your document…

Write your document in Word Online

Write your document in Word Online

The system has not asked what you want to call your document. By default, it is called Document, which is not very helpful. So remember to change the filename: just click on the filename at the top of the screen, in the screenshot click Document, and type your own name.

And when you are finished, you do not have to click Save; the document is saved automatically. The actually is no Save button. When you click on the name of the site (in my example Operations), you go back to the Document Library where you started, and the document is saved automatically, by the filename you have entered at the top.

Please note: if you have not entered your own filename, the document is still called Document or Document1 or something similarly unhelpful. Edit the document again in Word Online, to change the filename.

Edit your document in Word Online.

Edit your document in Word Online.

Create an advanced document in Office

In some situations, we want more than to just type up a document. We may want to use a template, and add metadata to make it easier to find the document. In that case, the Site Owner should set up the Document Library differently.

Use a template for a Content Type

If there are templates for, for example, reports, then it is helpful if the Site Owner or the overall Administrator creates a Content Type for them and associates the template with it. For an overview of the steps, see Microsoft’s Create or customize a site content type.

The relevant part for the template is in the Content Type’s Advanced Settings:

In the Advanced settings of the Content Type, the Site Owner can upload a template.

In the Advanced settings of the Content Type, the Site Owner can upload a template.

When the Site Owner associates this Content Type with the Document Library, the user can select it under the New button:

Add a report from a custom content type.

Add an Opeations report, based on the custom content type.

Now, the problem is that such templates do not always work well in Office Online: images may float to the wrong place, dynamic fields are not filled properly. You may want to test this with your own template. But be prepared for the fact that the Site Owner may have to change the settings, to use Office on the desktop instead of Office Online. We will get to that in a minute.

Use metadata to structure the document collection and find documents

If you have a lot of documents, it is helpful to group them by category, for example. Or filter them by status. Sort them by End date. In order to do that, the contributor who creates the document needs to fill in these metadata.

In Office Online, this is a bit tricky.

When you upload a document, you are prompted to fill in its metadata. However, if you create your document directly in Word Online, you are not prompted to fill in anything but the text of the document.

So if you just write your document and let it be saved automatically the metadata won’t be filled in. And if some of the metadata are required (like a Report category) then the document will remain checked out. That means that it is a draft version of the document, which only the uploader can see and nobody else.

The required field Reportcategory has not been filled in, so the document is left checked out and invisible to other users.

The required field ReportCategory has not been filled in, so the document is left checked out and invisible to other users.

The contributor then has to be aware of the situation, edit the properties, fill in the metadata and check in the document. The problem is that many contributors will forget that, and this will play havoc with the usefulness of the SharePoint sites.

This works a lot better if SharePoint opens the document in MS Word on your desktop, instead of opening Word Online. You are still working directly from SharePoint, but just in a different version from Office.

Opening documents on the desktop instead of in the browser

The Site Owner can determine where documents are opened, when you click on the title to read them or when you want to edit them. This is in the Advanced settings of the Document Library: in the section ‘Opening Documents in the Browser’ select Open in the client application instead of the default value ‘Use the server default (Open in the browser)’.

In the Advanced settings of the Document Library, the Sit Owner can select to open files in the client instead of in the browser.

In the Advanced settings of the Document Library, the Sit Owner can select to open files in the client instead of in the browser.

The document then opens in Word, where you have all functionality at your disposal, including fully functional templates.

And part of that full functionality is the Document Information Panel: a panel at the top of the .document with fields for the metadata. Please note: this Document Information Panel (DIP) appears in Word 2013, but not in Word 2016.

The document opened in the client, MS Word, with at the top the Document Information Panel.

The document opened in the client, MS Word, with at the top the Document Information Panel.

The Site Owner who manages the Content Type can configure it to “Always show Document Information Panel on document open and initial save for this content type”.

Content Type settings for the Document Information Panel

Content Type settings for the Document Information Panel

The Document Information Panel settings

The Document Information Panel settings


So users can create documents directly in SharePoint, so that you do not have to worry about documents getting stuck on personal drives or local computers. How the Site Owner should configure the site to make things easy for the users, depends on the situation.

  • For basic documents, without templating or metadata, working in Office Online meets the needs. In particular for users who do not have Office on their computers. Do not forget to tell users that they can change the filename at the top of the screen.
  • For advanced documents, with templates and/or metadata, working in the Office client (MS Word on the desktop) is easier. For that purpose, the Site Owner should configure content types and change the advanced settings of the Document Library, to open files in the client.

September 30, 2015

November 30, 2014

Help the users find what they need using the Search – 10 Tips

Filed under: SharePoint — Tags: — frederique @ 23:51

The SharePoint search functionality, and the search in SharePoint Online in particular, is quite powerful and helpful. But it is not magical. As an intranet team member, champion or administrator, you can help the users take full advantage of the search capabilities and help them find what they need.

I have also given a talk about this subject at the Office 365 Saturday Europe on November 15th; these are the slides I used.

What do we want from the search?

Users want the search to allow them to:

  • Find the right information so that they don’t miss anything relevant
  • Manipulate the result (filter, sort), so that they end up with the right info only, no clutter
  • See at the result at a glance, so that they can judge it and then use it

SharePoint’s search can help us do that. I always have to search hard (duh…) for resources specific for SharePoint Online, because the search in SharePoint 2013 is similar, but there are differences. This is the official SharePoint Online service description.

To help find the right information

Tip 1: Explain how it works

Searching does not have to be complicated: You can just enter a search term and hit enter. Or you can do a more advanced search, using operators like term1 AND “an exact search phrase between quotes”.

You filter the result by selecting a search vertical: instead of searching Everything, search People, Conversations of Videos, which are available by default. And you can filter the result by using the refinement panel on the left. Put your cursor on a result, and you will get more details and a preview, to allow you to decide if the item is what you are looking for.

Search result, with options to select another search vertical (e.g. Videos), filter with the refinement panel on the left. And hover over a result to preview it.

Search for one or more terms. In the result, you have options to select another search vertical (e.g. Videos), and filter with the refinement panel on the left. And hover over a result to preview it.

A tip to give to the innocent users who contribute content, is to enter proper metadata, especially the title. The search mechanism uses these metadata to bring up relevant results.

By default, the most relevant item is displayed at the top of the result list. What is most relevant, is determined by a complex mechanism that takes into account the types of content that are found (Powerpoint is considered more relevant to innocent users than Excel files), how often the search term appears in the item and where (if it is in the title, it is considered more relevant than if the term only appears deep down in the text). But it also takes into account dynamic factors like how often the result is clicked by users. So the analytics component of SharePoint Online keeps improving the relevance of the search results: don’t be surprised if you don’t always get the same result.
See for details the Overview of analytics processing in SharePoint Server 2013 that was also linked from the official SharePoint Online service description, so apparently it is also valid for SharePoint Online…

Tip 2: Explain what is not found

Some results are deliberately not brought up by the search mechanism. This can be confusing to the innocent users, so we should explain it. See for more details the previous blog post Why is that document not found? 6 tips to troubleshoot the SharePoint Online search.

  • Duplicates: only one is shown, not the other copies of the same item. Even if they are not exactly the same.
  • Items for which you don’t have permission. Which makes sense, because you don’t want to show a result, only to block the user when she tried to access it.
  • Unpublished drafts that are only visible to editors. You can only see unpublished drafts that are configured to be visible to all user. Apparently the search crawl account only has read permission.
  • Site or list excluded from search. Again, that makes sense. But users can get confused if they remember that the item exists somewhere and don’t understand why they cannot find it.
  • Synonyms. In SharePoint Online you can provide synonyms for your terms in the term store. But at present, the search in SharePoint Online cannot not do anything with these synonyms.
  • Too recent: the items have not been crawled yet…

Note: there are also some search limits for SharePoint Online. For example, very large documents are not crawled in their entirety. So far I have not had issues caused by these limitations in my projects, while I have had questions that were answered by the bullets above. But that may well change of course.

Tip 3: Boost authoritative items

As we stated in Tip 1, the items that are deemed to be most relevant are displayed on top. The relevance ranking takes many factors into account. But as an administrator or site (collection) owner you can also influence them.

As a site (collection) owner, you can set Query Rules for your site (collection). As an administrator you can do so for the entire environment. Using a query rule, you can specify what should happen in certain conditions. For example, if the user enters a specific search term, then a particular item is promoted at the top of the search results.

How? Click Site settings > Site collection administration or Search: Query rules. To set or view a query rule, you first need to specify the result source, like the local SharePoint results. Then you can specify in a new rule under what condition something should happen and what action then should be taken if these conditions are met. See Manage query rules for details.

Set query rules for the selected result source, e.g. to promote a specific result for a keyword.

Set query rules for the selected result source, e.g. to promote a specific result for a keyword.

As an administrator, you can also  set Authoritative pages in the SharePoint admin section. See also the SharePoint Online search administration overview and the subsequent Manage authoritative pages. The closer (less clicks) the item is to an Authoritative Page, the higher its relevance. So if you have a site that contains content that is particularly relevant, set it as an Authoritative page. On the other hand, if you have a set that is particularly irrelevant, you can demote it.

How? Click Admin > SharePoint > Search > Manage Authoritative pages:

Set authoritative pages that are very relevant.

Set authoritative pages that are very relevant.

Tip 4: Monitor the search

In the previous tips we discussed how you can influence the relevance of items in the search result. But to take advantage of that, you should monitor the search. Not just when you launch it, but continuously. Pay attention to the feedback the users give you and keep an eye on the search reports.

When you see what were the top queries, what searches led to no result and which queries were abandoned, you can act on that knowledge: change the authoritative pages and query rules, add or change the metadata. Or even ask for content that turns out to be missing altogether.

As a site collection owner you can check the search reports for your site collection. And as an administrator you can get reports for ShaePoint Online as a whole.
How? Click Site collection administration > Popularity and Search reports, or Admin > SharePoint > Search > View Usage reports (see also View usage and search reports):

Search reports for the site collection.

Search reports for the site collection.

Filter and sort the result to get rid of the clutter

Tip 5: Search Center for portal

Users on the homepage of the SharePoint Online intranet, or more generally in the portal, usually want to search everything: they are at the front door and want to find something in the environement as a whole. And because they are searching everything, it is very important that they can filter the potentially huge result to narrow it down to what they are looking for.

The Search Center that SharePoint contains by default allows you to configure the results pages, to show the information and the refiners that are most suitable to the users in your organization. The site collection ‘search’ is available by default.

You can start making use of it, by entering its url in the search settings of the portal site collection, and selecting that you want to send queries to the results page of that Search Center. Then you can edit that results page to meet your needs. See also Manage the Search Center in SharePoint Online.
How? Click Site settings > Site collection administration > Search settings:

Search settings to use the search center.

Search settings to use the search center.

Tip 6: Search this site in teamsites

Contrary to users in the portal, who want to search everything, users in a team site usually want to find something in that team site first. After all, they have navigated here purposefully. So make sure in the search settings of your team sites, that the users search this site by default. But allow them to search everything or one of the other search verticals instead, if they prefer. See also Specify search settings for a site collection or a site.

Search from a team site: by default within this site, or elsewhere.

Search from a team site: by default within this site, or elsewhere.

How? Click Site settings > Search settings > Turn on the dropdown menu:

Team site search settings: search in this site, but allow the user to search everything via the dropdown.

Team site search settings: search in this site, but allow the user to search everything via the dropdown.

Tip 7: Add relevant refiners

In the Search Center we discussed in Tip 5, you can edit the results pages and add refinement options that are relevant to your organization. For example, you can allow the users to filter by content type, theme, business division or whatever metadata are relevant for you.

Select the refiners carefully, because you should not add too many of them. SharePoint may get slow if there are more than 10 refiners. And users will need to scroll down too far in order to even see the last refiners. Note that only the refiners that actually have results are displayed. The advantage is that users will not be led to click a refiner that yields zero results. The disadvantage is that not everybody understands, so explain it.

How to add these refiners? On the search center results page click Edit > edit refinement web part > add or remove refiners and move them up or down:

Edit the refinement panel in the search center.

Edit the refinement panel in the search center.

You can simply select standard SharePoint metadata as refiners. If you want to use your own custom metadata as refiners, you need to make them available first, by adding them to the search schema, as refinable managed properties.
Note: in SharePoint Online, you cannot add new managed properties. What you need to do is use one of the existing “empty” refinable properties, like RefinableString01, and map the crawled property to it corresponding to your custom metadata; pick the one labeled ows_[MyProperty]. For more details, see Ben Prins’ blog post SharePoint Online: Search refiners and searchable columns and How to add refiners to your search results page in SharePoint 2013 (most of it is applicable to SharePoint Online too; not the reindexing though).

You can do this as a site (collection) owner for your site (collection) in the search center, or as an administrator for the entire SharePoint Online environment.
How? Click Site settings > Site collection administration or Search: Schema, or
Admin > SharePoint > Search > Manage Search Schema.

Search schema: connect your custom crawled properties to RefinableString managed properties.

Search schema: connect your custom crawled properties to RefinableString managed properties.

Tip 8: Use meaningful labels

Of course you should always use meaningful labels, for everything. But in the context of the search, this is even more important, because some labels are rather unclear to completely meaningless if you are not careful. In particular, this applies to the labels of the new refiners that you add, and to the sort order options.

The custom refiners that we discussed in Tip 7 by default are called RefinableString01 etc. You need to change the display name.

How? Edit the results page > Edit refinement web part > select the refiner > fill in the display name:

Change the display name of a search refiner.

Change the display name of a search refiner.


By default, the search result is sorted by relevance. In the settings of the webpart on the results page, you can allow the users to select a different sort order. The labels of some of these sort orders are not very clear though. In the translation to Dutch (I have only checked that translation), the label is even more incomprehensible. However, you can change the label:

  • Lifetime Views = Most viewed
  • Recent Views = Most viewed in the last 2 weeks
The user can change the sort order of the search result.

The user can change the sort order of the search result.

How? Edit the results page > Edit the Search Results web part > Settings > Available sort order: change the name of the label you want to change, e.g. “name”:”Lifetime Views” becomes “name”:”Most viewed”:

Change the sort order settings.

Change the sort order settings.

See, judge and use the result at a glance

Tip 9: Predefined search overviews

In addition to allowing the user to search her own results, you can also offer dynamic overviews that are based on predefined search queries. Then the user does not even have to perform a search to see what’s new and relevant in that part of the intranet. For example, you can display a ‘Who is Who’ page that displays people results at a glance.

Who is who page, with a predefined people search result.

Who is who page, with a predefined people search result.

How? Create a who is who page in your search center > Edit the search result web part > Change the query > Query text: {searchboxquery} contentclass:spspeople -{spoapp} -{spocrawler} -{Foreign}

Who is who page query.

Who is who page query.

Or you can display the most popular items, or the latest pictures.

Standard SharePoint search based content and content roll-up webparts, with standard configuration options.

Standard SharePoint search based content and content roll-up webparts, with standard configuration options.

How? There are standard webparts for this, in the sections Search-driven web parts and Content Roll-up.

Search-driven Contentweb parts and Content Roll-up web parts

Search-driven Contentweb parts and Content Roll-up web parts

Put one of these webparts on your page > Edit the web part > Select a display template for the control and for the item to determine what the result looks like (e.g. a list with two lines, or a slideshow with big images.
You can also change the query, if the default query does not suit you. Note: in the query wizard, you need to switch to advanced mode in order to change the sorting, for example to LastModifiedTime to see the pictures that were last modified. See Configure a Content Search Web Part in SharePoint.

Tip 10: Display relevant properties

To help the users see and judge at a glance what they have found in the search result, you can change the the overview and hover panel, to display the properties that are important for your organization. For example, the theme of the content or the contact details of a person.

Special display templates for the Who is Who page, displaying additional properties.

Special display templates for the Who is Who page, displaying additional properties.

You can do that as the owner of a publishing site (collection) or the administrator, by creating new Display Templates. These templates are HTML and some scripting, so you don’t have to be a developer to do create them. I am not an HTML or scripting guru, but I can still create display templates, by copying existing SharePoint and making some changes to the copies.

How? The most basic way is this: Starting with a publishing site (you don’t have this option in a team site) click site settings > Masterpages and page lay-outs > Display templates > Search >Download an original HTML file of a similar template as a starting point > edit the HTML file> upload the new file; the .js is created automatically so you don’t have to do anything with that file. Then select your new display template in the search results webpart where you want to use it. See for more details Change how search results look by using result types and display templates and the series How to change the way search results are displayed in SharePoint Server 2013.


So you see, you can enhance the search functionality offered by SharePoint Online to help the users find what they need, and you can do it without developing custom software. You just need owner or administrator permissions, for some things. And most of all, understanding of the possibilities.

January 31, 2014

Install it and they’ll come? Not if it doesn’t meet their needs

Filed under: Adoption,Governance,SharePoint,Usability — frederique @ 16:40

The other day, I talked to someone about their plans to set up SharePoint 2013 in their company. The reason they wanted SharePoint 2013, was that their SharePoint 2010 environment was not used. They had not investigated why it was a failure. But from what he told me, it sounded like the IT department just built SharePoint and assumed that the users would come. And they didn’t.

Ummm, and what makes you think that installing a new version of SharePoint would make any difference?

The only way your SharePoint implementation is going to be a success is if:

  • Firstly, it meets the users’ needs and
  • Secondly, it gets adopted by them.

These things do not happen by themselves; you have to address some serious questions before you start installing and implementing your SharePoint and before you introduce it to the users. Obvious? Apparently not, as this was a real life example of an IT guy who seemed to think he could build it and they would come…

In this article I focus on five big questions that need to be answered so that you end up with a SharePoint environment that can be useful. In the next article, I will address adoption: how you can then get employees to actually use it.

1. What are the goals?

What are you trying to achieve with your environment? Building and introducing a SharePoint environment is not a goal. It is a means to an end, such as enhancing productivity, innovation and employee satisfaction in your organization.

Go into detail. Don’t just state that your goal is “more productivity, period”. Think about the goals of your organization, and what a tool like SharePoint could do to help you achieve these strategic goals.

And keep your eye on the big picture. Don’t aim for a narrow goal like implementing a standard way of working through SharePoint. I have heard that as a goal, and it sounds like you are forcing a tool on people that is solely dedicated to force a way of working on them. A recipe for disaster. You are trying to enable the employees to collaborate effectively and efficiently? Taking advantage of the best practices and recognisability offered by standardization is a way, if done properly. And yes, SharePoint can help with that.

Try to quantify your goals, although this is usually quite difficult. How much do you think you can save by improving productivity? A percentage of time that is no longer wasted and can be spent on other tasks? How many mistakes were made last year, because employees did not follow the standard way of working, that could be avoided? By how much could the number of service requests be reduced, because the employees can now help themselves? If the goal is more employee engagement: are you going to measure it by means of an employee satisfaction survey before and after and the result should be so many points improvement?

2. For who is it?

This ties in with the goals: who will work with the environment to achieve those goals? And don’t answer “Duh, the employees of our organization”. There are different groups of people in your organization, and these people may find themselves in different situations.

  • Is it for the Information Workers who work on a computer in their daily work?
  • Operational workers, like factory workers, who don’t have a company computer?
  • Sales operatives who are on the road all day and use a mobile device?
  • For corporate and local? And do these people all understand the same language?
  • New employees and veterans? Are they newbies or computer savvy?
  • For all departments or specifically for some departments who will benefit the most?
  • Only employees or also external parties like suppliers and partners?

If it’s all of the above for the environment as a whole, the different groups may well use different parts of the environment to fulfill their different needs. For example, the Information Works work on documents together, the factory workers look up procedures and request a shift change during a break, sales operatives align their schedules and share their findings after meeting with a client, the external parties work with employees in very specific projects.

In any case, it is very important to keep in mind who the users will be. Usually, SharePoint is not just for IT-people and not just for corporate people.

3. So what do you implement?

What should you offer these people to allow them to achieve their goals? It’s not enough to answer “Well, we offer them SharePoint”.

Even if you have decided that you will use only standard, out-of-the box SharePoint and don’t want any custom development, you still need to think:

  • What functionality are you going to take out of that standard SharePoint box?
    A portal for company news and information to make sure people are up to speed on the latest developments and official policies? Team sites for collaborating in teams? Document management functionality? Project sites to manage projects? Workflows to streamline processes? Integration with Office? Discussion boards and feeds to share ideas? Incorporating Yammer? Commenting and liking to stimulate feedback? Dynamic, search-based overviews that pull information from different sites?
  • How are you going to configure it so that it is handy for the user?
    Do you need separate sections with special security? Do you tie it all together with shared navigation or do team sites, for example, stand alone? Which elements do you put on the pages? With what views to focus on the most relevant items? Based on which content types equipped with which templates and information policies? And using which metadata to allow for clear structure and pertinent search results?
  • What will it look like?
    If it looks awful, it is a lot more difficult to convince people to spend time in the environment. Do you style SharePoint in alignment with your organisation’s style? Or another style? Can every site owner pick his or her own theme or should it be consistent across the entire environment? Do you create a rich look & feel for communication pages and a clean one for pages where users do their heavy duty work without getting distracted?

4. And are you checking with the stakeholders?

If you are an IT guy or gel, you can try to answer these questions by yourself. But don’t. You are doing this for other people in the organisation, so involve them to increase your chances of ending up with something they’ll like:

  • Are the goals aligned?
    The goals for your SharePoint environment should follow from the goals of your organisation. Does management agree with the goals and audiences you formulated?
  • Did you ask the different groups of users what they think of the old system and what they need?
    What do they hate and love in the previous SharePoint implementation or the other systems that you think of replacing with SharePoint? Did you do a survey, a focus group, interviews? Or at least ask around informally, if it’s a small-scale operation? Did you check the available analytics, to see which pages are visited?
  • Are you asking the different stakeholders what they think of your ideas along the way?
    Do you solicit feedback from users about the functionality you propose? Do you test the usability of the configured site, even if it is just by asking an innocent user to click through a test site and see where they click and what confuses them?

5.How will it be governed after launch?

Ok, you are building a great SharePoint environment that should meet the users’ needs. But will it keep up with real life, or will it fall flat after a while so that the users abandon it? You’ll need a governance plan that answers questions about, for example, Content Lifecycle Management. Don’t postpone thinking about governance until after you’ve launched, because then you may find your configuration at odds with the desired content management strategy, for example:

  • How do you keep the content fresh?
    Who will get the initial content in there in the first place? Who will write new stuff, update information, and delete what is no longer relevant? Do they need a publishing process of drafts, approval and scheduled publishing? Automated information management and what would the rules then be? Analytics to find out what is visited and what is not? These questions will have different answers depending on the type of content: corporate departments manage the organisation-wide information and site owners manage their own team site? In a team site, all members can contribute information?
  • Who will manage the elements?
    Site owners can manage their apps: add things like lists and libraries to their sites, and web parts to their pages? Can anybody create their own site for their team or project, or should they request it? Then who will process the request and what will be their criteria? Who decides a new section should be added to the portal? Who can add terms to the taxonomy?
  • How do you make sure the right people have the right access?
    Site owners manage the users on their own site? Internal and external users? Do you have sections, like a portal, that should be visible to everyone in the organisation? Then who manages that ‘everyone’ group? If you are using Office 365, what kind of licenses do you have and who is managing them?
  • How do you avoid technical disaster and who will fix things when they are broken?
    Do you have planned maintenance on the back-end? Do you have disaster recovery scenarios and are you sure they work?
  • How can users get the help they need to use SharePoint optimally?
    Do you have a helpdesk? A network of local “champions” that stimulate the users and help them out? Do you arrange class-room training, training videos, e-learning modules? Do you have help content? A community site where people can discuss SharePoint best practices?

With this last point about governance, we move towards the other part of making your SharePoint a success: adoption. Once you have launched the tool and arranged for it to stay gleaming and fresh, how can you get people to start using the tool and keep using it? But that is the topic of another article.

December 31, 2013

Last day of 2013

Filed under: SharePoint — frederique @ 15:51

Ok, this is the last day of the calendar year 2013. I am certainly not implying that this is the last day of SharePoint 2013, although I have been hearing and reading a lot about the death of SharePoint this year. But rumours of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

Joel Oleson has a nice article listing the warning signs, but he also concludes SharePoint is NOT Dead and even on-prem is alive and well!

Most of the noise is about the on-premises version of SharePoint. I have seen slogans like “SharePoint is dead, long live Office 365”. But then SharePoint Online, which is part of Office 365, is still SharePoint… The noise about the demise of on-premise seems to be caused by the marketing drive towards the online version: the cloud is new and hot and we all should move into it. Except of course when we have an on-premise installation that has specific needs with respect to customization or security.

So SharePoint 2013 on-premises and online are not dead.
But on the other hand, I can’t say that they are thriving in all of their implementations, in all organisations that use them.

In some cases, the implementation is not optimal from a technical standpoint, for example:

  • Functionality and especially integration fail when the computers of the organization are still stuck with old versions of Office and Internet Explorer – IE8 can mess up your configuration in a big way.
  • Access to SharePoint Online from outside the organisation’s network is blocked for security reasons, negating the anytime anywhere principle.

But in most cases, the problem lies in the way SharePoint is used or rather: not used. For example:

  • People still send huge documents attached to e-mail, instead of putting it in the available team site.
  • The portal of a big company offered a lot of discussion and blog features, but hardly anybody said anything in there.

We can’t just build it and assume the users will come – this is a nice infographic about why enterprise social networks fail. Build it and they’ll come? It’s more like think about the users’ needs, engage the stakeholders,  configure the tool, show the benefits, coach key users and keep enticing them to come.

What a negative note to end the year on? No, this means that there are plenty of opportunities for improvement. We won’t get bored in 2014…

Happy New Year!

Tree of Light

October 31, 2013

Popularity trends in your SharePoint Online team site

Filed under: Governance,Office365,SharePoint — frederique @ 23:19

People who provide content or manage sites want to know how much their content or their sites are used. They want to know if it is worth spending time on it. What is used a lot and needs to be maintained carefully. What was supposed to be very useful but turns out not to be visited at all. Based on that information, they can adapt their content management or site management strategy. In short, you need analytics for your intranet governance. Even when you are in the cloud. So how does SharePoint Online 2013 help?

As I mentioned in a previous blog post about the 2010 version of SharePoint Online, we only had an unsupported hack to access some numbers. And that stopped in March, when Microsoft upgraded the back-end of SharePoint Online. In the 2013 version, we have gained visible statistics, though they are very basic.

Still, we have something and it is quite democratic: all users can get some sense of how often content is viewed. Visitors can see how often a document or a page has been viewed, members can see in a library what are the most popular items. The more permissions you have, the larger the scale of the analytics you can consult: site owners can see popularity trends for their sites and site collection owners for the collection as a whole. Just don’t try to drill down and slice & dice by interesting criteria.

Site visitors see how popular individual items are

When they open the item menu “…”, even visitors who only have read permission see how many times the item has been viewed. You don’t see anything displayed there when you are the only one who has visited a newly added document once or twice, but a number appears when the document has been visited more often.

The visitor can see the number of views of the selected document

The visitor can see the number of views of the selected document

In addition, visitors can generate popularity trends reports for pages and files. When the visitor is on a page, he or she can open a Popularity Trends report for that page from the ribbon:

Popularity trends option in the page ribbon

Popularity trends option in the page ribbon

And the visitor can generate a Popularity Trends report for one or more selected document in a library: a tab is opened in Excel for each of the selected documents, and at the top of the sheet you see the name of the item.

Popularity trends for selected documents

Popularity trends for selected documents

This gives you an overview in Excel, in the form of lists and in graphs of the hits on this item over time: on a daily basis over the last two weeks and on a monthly basis over the last three years. So you can see if the item has gained or lost popularity. Or if it has popularity peaks, say, at the end of every month, when the entire team has to go to the selected page to fill out their travel expense report.

In Excel, you can do some manipulations. But what you cannot do is slice & dice by, for example, the country or department where the users are based. Or the page where the users come from when they land here or how much time they spend on this page.

These numbers emphatically do not mention the names of any user or any other personal information about the users. Only the number of visits, regardless of the people involved. That is why these analytics can be made available so widely without any legal privacy concerns.

Site members see the popularity of items in whole libraries

In a library, site members can check the popularity of files via the Most popular items button in the ribbon.
Note: For SharePoint Online, this only available in libraries, including page libraries, NOT in lists.

Site members have a button 'Most popular items' in the library ribbon

Site members have a button ‘Most popular items’ in the library ribbon

This leads to an overview in the form of a search result of

  • Most views, recently (i.e. over the last 14 days) and ever (i.e. since it was uploaded or created in the library)
  • Most views by unique user (the intranet knows of course who the users are, because we are logged on to the system)
  • Most recommendation clicks (based on item-to-item relationships calculated by the system. Maybe this report is not so clear to us, but the search engine also uses these data to calculate the relevance of results. Think “People who viewed this also viewed”.)

Because it is a search result, you can drill down by specifying a search term to find the items you are interested in or by filtering via the refiners on the left hand side.

Result of the most popular items in the library

Result of the most popular items in the library

And then you can look into the details for the item you are interested in, by clicking the Popularity Trends link under it.

Popularity trend over time for the selected item

Popularity trend over time for the selected item

The button says this is about ‘most popular items’, but you can also see what is less popular and that is very interesting as well: if nobody ever reads a document, you should either promote it better or just get rid of it to clean up your site.

Note: Visitors who only have only read permission see the button. But when they clicked on it, they used to get zero views for everything (If it does not work for visitors, it would have been better to grey-out this option for visitors, or they may get the wrong impression). However, when I last tested it, it did seem to work just fine. So maybe the problem has been fixed. Until I am sure about that, I will assume this functionality only really works for users who have edit permissions.

Site owners see aggregated Popularity trends for their sites as a whole

In site settings, site owners have the option Popularity trends.

Popularity trends in the Site Settings

Popularity trends in the Site Settings

When you click on that, you only get one option currently: generate a usage report.

The option to generate a usage report as a site owner.

The option to generate a usage report as a site owner.

And that gives you the usage details for the site as a whole, in the same kind of report that the site members can get for an individual item.

Usage details for the site as a whole

Usage details for the site as a whole

Note: the permission component ‘Create subsite’ needs to be enabled for these site owners. Otherwise they see the option on their site settings page, but it leads to an access request page.
This is rather awkward: in the intranet we built, we want to control site creation, so site owner do not have permission to create their own sites. As a result, they can’t see the usage statistics either…

Site collection owners see an even larger aggregate and search reports

At the level of the site collection, site collection owners have the additional option Popularity and search reports.

Options for the site collection owner: site popularity trends and collection popularity and search resports

Options for the site collection owner: site popularity trends and collection popularity and search resports

From there, you can also open search reports that tell you not just how much the search is used (Number of Queries) but also how it is used (Top Queries, Query Rule Usage) and where it fails (Abandoned Queries, No Result Queries).

Usage reports at the level of the site collection

Usage reports at the level of the site collection

Note: in the large SharePoint Online environment where I often work, we have a separate site collection for Search. We have to go to that collection to see which queries the users started from the portal. The search reports included in the portal collection display “automated” searches for specific content types that we use to roll up information dynamically.

For the aggregate of the search reports over all site collections, go to the SharePoint admin center.

Reports in the SharePoint admin center

Reports in the SharePoint admin center


So am I happy with the analytics options we have at our disposal in SharePoint Online 2013?

Well…. it does not take away the need for a serious third party tool if you want to really monitor what happens with your content.
I’ve read that these analytics were designed to make the search functionality smarter rather than make the content managers work smarter by monitoring usage.  That makes sense from what I see and in particular from what I don’t see: no easy drill-down, no slicing & dicing by type of user (department, country etc), no real-time data, no data about the time of day when anything is used, no information about where users clicked to get here or how long they stay here, what device and browser they use….

But it is better than what we used to have in the SharePoint Online 2010, especially since this spring. Mostly because site owners and content owners can see for themselves if their documents, pages and sites are being used now and over time. It’s a start.

August 31, 2013

Our new option for bulk editing: Quick Edit

Filed under: Office365,SharePoint — frederique @ 20:06

We often have to add, edit or delete dozens of list items or document properties in one go. Opening each item one by one drives you crazy quite quickly. So we are very happy with the options SharePoint offers us to do these bulk operations quickly and painlessly. The latest one is called Quick Edit, which replaces the datasheet. It not only has a new name, but it also has very practical new features. But not everything works as I expected.

Quick access to the Quick edit option…

We now have a 1-click button ‘Quick edit’ at the top of the list or library, so that you don’t need to open the ribbon first.

Edit this list

Edit this list: the quickest way to start bulk editing

In the Quick Edit view you get then, you can add edit the values of most fields, and add rows and copy over the value of fields, all very quickly and easily.

… but not for views with other Styles than Default

However, the quick edit only works if your list or library is displayed in a view with Style = Default. If the view has any other style (such as basic table or newsletter), the modern 2013 interface for the quick edit disappears and the Quick Edit option in the ribbon is disabled. At the same time, the modern interface for adding items and switching view disappears; you get the old ‘add item’ link at the bottom of the list. Weird huh?

No Quick Edit if the view has another Style than Default

No Quick Edit if the view has another Style than Default; this example has the Shaded style.

Microsoft has said that this is by design, which probably means that they know it does not work. I have requested that they fix this anyway via the change request form, hoping that more people do so and Microsoft fixes this.

…and not for grouped views

Another unexpected limitation is that the Quick Edit is not available for view where Group By is used. The option at the top of the list disappeared, and it gets greyed out in the ribbon.

No Quick Edit for a grouped  view

No Quick Edit for a grouped view

The old school datasheet could handle grouped views without blinking, but the new Quick Edit is stumped by this very common setting that makes our views a lot easier to read. Again, Microsoft sells it as “by design” and, again, I have begged them to solve this by way of a service request and subsequent change request.

Quick Edit works for management metadata!

What exasperated me and my users most about the datasheet view in SharePoint 2010 was our inability to quickly edit managed metadata with it. Our environment uses managed metadata a lot, so bulk operations were always a pain.

But now we can add, edit and delete managed metadata in the Quick Edit. This is a serious win and I am very happy with it! You can just type in our managed metadata, or use the assistance you get in regular managed metadata fields, to select your value from the company taxonomy.

Quick Edit of Managed metadata

Quick Edit of Managed metadata

Quick Edit allows you to insert pictures in multiple lines of text fields

In enhanced multiple lines of text fields, you can not only insert pictures and other advanced layout in the regular edit form but also in the Quick Edit mode. You couldn’t do that in the old 2010 datasheet.

Insert a picture in Quick Edit mode.

Insert a picture in Quick Edit mode.

Strangely enough, the Rich Text variant of the fields cannot be edited in the Quick Edit mode – it looks like that one is being deprecated, as the option only becomes available when I edit a column, not when I created it.
As in the 2010 datasheet, the versions of the multiple lines of tex field that allow you to append text and keep track of the versions, still don’t work in the Quick Edit. A pity, but not unexpected.

Note: different names are used for it

 The datasheet was always the datasheet, but now we have to pay attention:

  • In the ribbon this option is called Quick Edit
  • In the list, the shortcut is called Edit this list.
  • When you predefine a view like this, it carries the old name Datasheet view.
  • Microsoft refers to it as inline editing in articles like Add, edit, or delete list items  (Inline edit used to be something different in 2010, but apparently now it is the same quick edit functionality.)

Bottomline: I like the good stuff, such as the quick access and the option to edit managed metadata. And I hope that Microsoft fixes the weaknesses soon, because it seems like they just didn’t have time to implement it for other types of views. Now’s a good time guys :-)

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